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McDonald's, an oasis in a frantic world

McDonald's, an oasis in a frantic world
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  • McDonald's, an oasis in a frantic world

    Post #1 - June 29th, 2006, 4:04 pm
    Post #1 - June 29th, 2006, 4:04 pm Post #1 - June 29th, 2006, 4:04 pm
    That's what this guy says.
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  • Post #2 - June 30th, 2006, 1:03 pm
    Post #2 - June 30th, 2006, 1:03 pm Post #2 - June 30th, 2006, 1:03 pm
    I read that article and I actually thought that was a keen observation. You do see a lot of foreign people in McDonalds everywhere - so what is the attraction? It's clearly not the food, so it must be the neutral, bland and non-stimulating atmosphere which provides a reprieve.

    I generally enjoy Rolf Potts column - don't enjoy his smug mug shot at the top - but he lost me this weekwhen he included Yankee Stadium was one of the top 10 places in America. Clearly, he hasn't been to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, which beat the pants out of Yankee Stadium, IMHO.
  • Post #3 - June 30th, 2006, 1:08 pm
    Post #3 - June 30th, 2006, 1:08 pm Post #3 - June 30th, 2006, 1:08 pm
    I was in Budapest not long after McDonald's beat Karl Marx in the finals of the 20th century, and I'll tell you, the reason McD's was popular there was very simple: because there were no restaurants for ordinary comrades until then. Only tourists and the Party elite got to eat at those fancy restaurants; everyone else boiled cabbage at home. McDonald's... it tastes like freedom.
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  • Post #4 - June 30th, 2006, 1:33 pm
    Post #4 - June 30th, 2006, 1:33 pm Post #4 - June 30th, 2006, 1:33 pm
    A friend of mine was working in Paris a couple of years ago (he's a management consultant) and I went to visit for a couple of weeks. One night we were going out with his co-workers, and his co-workers were so excited about the place we were headed to -- someplace they loved. They couldn't stop talking about this AMAZING new restaurant that had opened up.

    We arrived at . . . . TGIF's -- yes, the very same one that most of us would not be caught dead in. The place was jam packed with Parisians who were savoring every inch of the place like you would not believe. My friend told me that his co-workers would drag him to TGIF's at least a few times a week and that the place was packed every night. My friend's co-workers were shocked to find out that many people in the US believe that TGIF's is low-end dining, and his co-workers were pretty well paid consultants.

    So perhaps an explanation behind foreigners' love of these places is that many foreigners believe that these restaurants provide a glimpse into American culture, and for that reason alone, they want a part of it. Funny thing is, when I told them I liked a sandwich that I grabbed at a Pret-A-Manger (a sandwich shop and bakery chain), they laughed at me in shock like I had just eaten a sandwich from a 7-11 -- and I thought it was a damn good sandwich! :lol:
  • Post #5 - June 30th, 2006, 2:12 pm
    Post #5 - June 30th, 2006, 2:12 pm Post #5 - June 30th, 2006, 2:12 pm
    I used to spend a week or two in Montreal each summer at once of the university residences. While I generally would eat at small bistros, lunch counters, and the like, it was great occasionally to stop at McDonalds for a Coca Cola ON ICE as opposed to the flat Coke I was served elsewhere.
  • Post #6 - June 30th, 2006, 3:06 pm
    Post #6 - June 30th, 2006, 3:06 pm Post #6 - June 30th, 2006, 3:06 pm
    Another reason for McDonald's popularity: Free, reasonably clean public restrooms. If you've ever had to go in a foreign city (or an American one, for that matter) ill-equipped with such amenities, you too will learn to hail the sight of the golden arches with relief.

    As a tourist, the other reason I stop into McDonald's is that it's a place you know will be properly heated or cooled, and as jlawrence01 notes, where you can be sure you can sit down and have a cold Coke.

    It's also fun to study the menu and see their adaptations to local culture, like the kiwi burgers in New Zealand, with beets on them.
  • Post #7 - July 1st, 2006, 11:09 am
    Post #7 - July 1st, 2006, 11:09 am Post #7 - July 1st, 2006, 11:09 am
    I have an elderly uncle, that loves to travel, here in the US. But he eats 8 out of 10 meals at Cracker Barrel.

    I asked him if he liked the food that much, and he said no, but what he liked was that each place served almost identical food. And that he knew what of their dishes he could eat, without getting an upset tummy.

    Driving cross country, was not something to do, when you needed to stop at a rest stop every 20 minutes, or less.

    I suspect, if he went to Europe, he would be at MickyD's twice a day, for that same reason.
  • Post #8 - July 1st, 2006, 2:18 pm
    Post #8 - July 1st, 2006, 2:18 pm Post #8 - July 1st, 2006, 2:18 pm
    I can vouch for a couple of these reasons myself.

    One Sunday morning in Singapore, after 7 months in Wuhan, deepest China, two weeks in Hong Kong, a week each in Bankok and KL, eating entirely local, mostly street, food, I stumbled upon the downtown Burger King. All of a sudden the most attractive thing in the universe was a standard American burger, eaten in an epitome of American-fast-food's calm, cool, totally neutral plastic nonambiance. I enjoyed the hell out of that experience. By way of contrast, most certainly; but enjoyed it nonetheless.

    Another time was up north of Bremen, another Sunday morning, but this one after a huge, never-ending sausage-grilling-and-pils-drinking evening, spent with my brother and his whole gaggle of fellow tank platoon leaders from the Osterholz Panzerlager. Somehow or other we made it to the Mickey D's in downtown Bremen, led ineluctably ever onward by our sole potential means of survival: and endless series of totally full-of-ice cokes. Oh damn, salvation. And it was the *only* place in town that could save us.

    Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.


    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #9 - July 2nd, 2006, 11:31 pm
    Post #9 - July 2nd, 2006, 11:31 pm Post #9 - July 2nd, 2006, 11:31 pm
    And the answer is "D, All of the above."

    I've seen so many of these same things as I've traveled the world. I love Mike G's comment about McDonald's in Budapest tasting like freedom, and it's so true -- and also true that the common people didn't have places to dine out under Communism.

    And the clean bathroom thing is true -- and not just clean, but Western style toilets, so you don't have to crouch over a hole in the ground, as one must do in much of Asia.

    One thing only briefly mentioned -- ice cubes. I've learned, after years of traveling, to drink everything at a range from cool to luke warm, but most Americans start to vibrate after a while without ice cubes. Even I found ice welcome when I was in Hong Kong in the summer one time.

    And the loving a place because it's American -- absolutely. I can remember showing two South African students around Chicago one weekend, and they took a few pictures of the museums and a couple of photos from the top of the Hancock Building, but when I took them to Ed Debevic's, oh my, did they go through film -- the juke box, the waiter, them with the waiter, the counter with all the meat, the soda fountain, them with the juke box, them in a booth with sodas -- it was exactly what they had expected America to be.

    One McDonald's story that is a little off the topic but kind of related was, during my first trip to Hong Kong, I was traveling with a woman who hadn't been out of the U.S. before, and so she was a little more needy of escaping the whirl of Asia than I was, and we headed for McDonald's a couple of times. On our second trip, we had the wonderful experience of becoming party of the homework of an adorable group of Chinese children. They had been told to find an American and interview him or her and try to get a photo with their American. So these kids had been lurking at McDonald's for a couple of hours, hoping an American would come in (there, as elsewhere, the clientele was pan-global), and when my friend and I walked in, we were surrounded. We got our photos shot with all the kids, we answered questions (I think practicing their English was the point of the exercise), we helped them spell things, we asked them questions. It was great.

    And it sounds as though most of those in this thread who do go to McDonald's for the food have spent long periods of time overseas. It is amazing how good something familiar tastes when one has been away for a long time. It has been a long time since I spent that much time abroad, but I was visiting a friend in Japan last year (teaching English, has been there for five years), and she found McDonald's to be the perfect place to relax and speak English and plug into her own culture again while I was with her. At first, I was a little horrified to be eating at McDonald's in Japan, but her pleasure made it worthwhile (and I ate plenty of Japanese food, too).

    I will say that, in most places, McDonald's does a great job of trying to fit in. I can remember seeing the golden arches in Salzburg, Austria, but they were tiny and set in one of the ornate wrought-iron decorative brackets that all the traditional stores used. And in Marrakech recently, I saw a McDonald's made of mud brick with a dome -- and golden arches. I didn't eat at either place, but I still thought it was fun seeing how they tried to blend in.
  • Post #10 - July 3rd, 2006, 9:35 am
    Post #10 - July 3rd, 2006, 9:35 am Post #10 - July 3rd, 2006, 9:35 am
    I think this discussion touches on an interesting point about why people frequent restaurants of their home country. I have seen two references on this board in recent weeks stating that it is strange that a local ethnic restaurant (I believe one Chinese/Korean and one Mexican) was so well frequented by clientele of the particular nationality/ethnic group when the food was so miserable -- and that perhaps there is something on the menu that makes it worthwhole that is just not clear to the eater not from the particular nationality/ethnic group. My counterthought whenever I hear statements like this is McDonald's overseas. Just because McDonald's is packed to the gills with traveling Americans does not mean it is a good representation of American cuisine. But I think this article does a good job of showing that there are other reasons why one may go to a McDonald's overseas beyond the food. And perhaps that explains some of the reason why poor examples of ethnic restaurants are frequented by patrons of the home country -- maybe the patrons are going to the restaurant for something other than the food, maybe it reminds them of home in some way or provides some comfort or oasis-like zen from an American culture they find overwhelming or disconcerting.
  • Post #11 - July 4th, 2006, 10:41 pm
    Post #11 - July 4th, 2006, 10:41 pm Post #11 - July 4th, 2006, 10:41 pm
    Matt wrote:And perhaps that explains some of the reason why poor examples of ethnic restaurants are frequented by patrons of the home country -- maybe the patrons are going to the restaurant for something other than the food, maybe it reminds them of home in some way or provides some comfort or oasis-like zen from an American culture they find overwhelming or disconcerting.

    Excellent point. I shall comfort myself with it the next time I get disappointing food at an ethnic restaurant packed with immigrants ... instead of my usual paranoid surmise that they're getting something better than what I'm getting.

    Alas, that was provably untrue the other night at Kum Kang San, which seemed so promising when we entered, full of Korean customers with tables crowded with bowls of banchan. Whereas we received one lonely little dish of pallid, bland, limp strips of clearly made-for-the-yangnom radish kimchi.
  • Post #12 - October 16th, 2012, 11:02 am
    Post #12 - October 16th, 2012, 11:02 am Post #12 - October 16th, 2012, 11:02 am
    After a delightful night of drunkenness last night, Mr. Pie was desperate for something salty, so he suggested we go to McDonald's. I wasn't hungry, but I saw this as an opportunity to retry my old fave, the plain cheeseburger. Two cheeseburgers and a large fry was under $5, nice, but both were sorely disappointing. I thought the fries were bland (though my tastebuds may have been numbed by drink) but the burger was significantly unawesome and quite sweet. We hadn't had one in ten years, and I doubt we'll go back. One more to cross off our lists.
    I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert. ~ Jason Love

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  • Post #13 - October 16th, 2012, 2:54 pm
    Post #13 - October 16th, 2012, 2:54 pm Post #13 - October 16th, 2012, 2:54 pm
    Cyntha and others have already explained well, earlier in this thread, some of the reasons that McDonald's appeals to non-Americans and to Americans abroad.

    I'm a little surprised that no one's posted a link yet to this popular Flyer Talk thread on McDonald's menu items around the world. McDonald's does distinguish itself, one must admit, in comparison to other international fast-food chains, in its enthusiasm for creating menu items with local appeal.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #14 - October 16th, 2012, 3:17 pm
    Post #14 - October 16th, 2012, 3:17 pm Post #14 - October 16th, 2012, 3:17 pm
    Only for fizzy caffeinated sugar water.

    In the EU, I've been charged 3 Euros in a restaurant for a 200ml Coke (awww, what an adorable little can!). Too much money for not enough caffeine after a sleepless overnight flight (not a coffee drinker, me). 1 Euro kept me going for an afternoon at the house of the clown.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #15 - October 16th, 2012, 3:29 pm
    Post #15 - October 16th, 2012, 3:29 pm Post #15 - October 16th, 2012, 3:29 pm
    JoelF wrote:Only for fizzy caffeinated sugar water.

    In the EU, I've been charged 3 Euros in a restaurant for a 200ml Coke (awww, what an adorable little can!). Too much money for not enough caffeine after a sleepless overnight flight (not a coffee drinker, me). 1 Euro kept me going for an afternoon at the house of the clown.


    In Europe McDonald's can be relied upon for 3 things:

    1. Fountain beverages with ICE.
    2. Air Conditioning
    3. Free Wifi

    I've also been in a few surprisingly nice McCafe's abroad (comfortable leather lounge chairs added to the above list).
  • Post #16 - October 16th, 2012, 3:40 pm
    Post #16 - October 16th, 2012, 3:40 pm Post #16 - October 16th, 2012, 3:40 pm
    spinynorman99 wrote:
    JoelF wrote:Only for fizzy caffeinated sugar water.

    In the EU, I've been charged 3 Euros in a restaurant for a 200ml Coke (awww, what an adorable little can!). Too much money for not enough caffeine after a sleepless overnight flight (not a coffee drinker, me). 1 Euro kept me going for an afternoon at the house of the clown.


    In Europe McDonald's can be relied upon for 3 things:

    1. Fountain beverages with ICE.
    2. Air Conditioning
    3. Free Wifi

    I've also been in a few surprisingly nice McCafe's abroad (comfortable leather lounge chairs added to the above list).

    An addition to your list, free clean toilets. I hope that has not changed.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #17 - October 16th, 2012, 4:38 pm
    Post #17 - October 16th, 2012, 4:38 pm Post #17 - October 16th, 2012, 4:38 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:
    spinynorman99 wrote:
    JoelF wrote:Only for fizzy caffeinated sugar water.

    In the EU, I've been charged 3 Euros in a restaurant for a 200ml Coke (awww, what an adorable little can!). Too much money for not enough caffeine after a sleepless overnight flight (not a coffee drinker, me). 1 Euro kept me going for an afternoon at the house of the clown.


    In Europe McDonald's can be relied upon for 3 things:

    1. Fountain beverages with ICE.
    2. Air Conditioning
    3. Free Wifi

    I've also been in a few surprisingly nice McCafe's abroad (comfortable leather lounge chairs added to the above list).

    An addition to your list, free clean toilets. I hope that has not changed.


    Never had occasion to use one, but the locations I've visited have all been spotless so I'd imagine the restrooms were too.
  • Post #18 - October 17th, 2012, 8:15 am
    Post #18 - October 17th, 2012, 8:15 am Post #18 - October 17th, 2012, 8:15 am
    spinynorman99 wrote:
    JoelF wrote:Only for fizzy caffeinated sugar water.

    In the EU, I've been charged 3 Euros in a restaurant for a 200ml Coke (awww, what an adorable little can!). Too much money for not enough caffeine after a sleepless overnight flight (not a coffee drinker, me). 1 Euro kept me going for an afternoon at the house of the clown.


    In Europe McDonald's can be relied upon for 3 things:

    1. Fountain beverages with ICE.
    2. Air Conditioning
    3. Free Wifi

    I've also been in a few surprisingly nice McCafe's abroad (comfortable leather lounge chairs added to the above list).


    So true, especially with the addition of toilets to your list. Speaking of "surprisingly nice," the McDonalds/McCafe in Budapest at Nyugati Station has got to be among the fanciest in the world. See here.

    Me? I actually like McDonalds, especially the McDouble or Double Cheeseburger. When I want a quick under-500 calorie snack for a buck (or roundabouts), the McDouble is my burger of choice. Given a choice between the big three, I'll pick McD's every day.
  • Post #19 - October 17th, 2012, 9:26 am
    Post #19 - October 17th, 2012, 9:26 am Post #19 - October 17th, 2012, 9:26 am
    Binko wrote:Me? I actually like McDonalds, especially the McDouble or Double Cheeseburger. When I want a quick under-500 calorie snack for a buck (or roundabouts), the McDouble is my burger of choice. Given a choice between the big three, I'll pick McD's every day.


    Not for me: when a bite through the burger yields the same texture through bun, condiments and meat, the onions are labeled "recons onions" (reconstituted? how expensive is transporting onions these days?), and everything is sweet, I can't say I love McDs. However... Wendy's burger, no matter how hot and juicy, always tastes dreadfully overcooked, and I've had customer service issues at several Burger Kings over the last year leading me to avoid them as a rule.

    I'm probably better off without the big chain burgers anyway.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #20 - October 17th, 2012, 9:57 am
    Post #20 - October 17th, 2012, 9:57 am Post #20 - October 17th, 2012, 9:57 am
    Spinynorman absolutely nailed the *essential* feature: ICE.

    A badly hung-over Sunday morning in Bremen. Desperate for some fizz + caffeine + ICE. NO PLACE TO GO... except MickeyD's. Gottseidank.

    Similar experience in Paris. McDo's on the Champs perhaps the dirtiest, ugliest, meanest, ice-deficient succursal in the entire wolrdwide chain.

    Singapore, Smith Street McD's on a blistering blazing Sunday morning: cool, friendly, coke iced up the gazoo, Xiexie!

    Sometimes *only* McDonald's will do...

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #21 - October 17th, 2012, 1:09 pm
    Post #21 - October 17th, 2012, 1:09 pm Post #21 - October 17th, 2012, 1:09 pm
    I'm reminded of something that Michael Palin says in one of his travel shows (Pole to Pole, I think) about there being two characteristics that distinguish Americans from other people on the planet: their obsession with personal hygiene and their insatiable need for ice.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #22 - October 17th, 2012, 1:36 pm
    Post #22 - October 17th, 2012, 1:36 pm Post #22 - October 17th, 2012, 1:36 pm
    Hi,

    Binko - I like McDonald's, too. I refuse to be defined as someone who has to dislike McDonald's, because I like other things. I especially like their breakfast: egg McMuffins and their steak, egg and cheese bagel, which I rarely eat because I like it so much. When Filet-O-Fish fell off the menu in the early 90's, I was not happy.

    Our liking ice is a cultural preference. I have seen Moscovites walking in a blizzard eating an ice cream cone. Put ice in your drink, you get all kinds of advice on how it will make you ill. I did it anyway, which drove them crazy.

    My Grandfather resided in Acapulco. He was a European who was not very enthusiastic about ice. He laughed about all those Americans who worried about the water yet wanted ice in their drinks. "Where did the water come from in the ice? Hmmmm?"

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #23 - October 17th, 2012, 2:22 pm
    Post #23 - October 17th, 2012, 2:22 pm Post #23 - October 17th, 2012, 2:22 pm
    Katie wrote:I'm reminded of something that Michael Palin says in one of his travel shows (Pole to Pole, I think) about there being two characteristics that distinguish Americans from other people on the planet: their obsession with personal hygiene and their insatiable need for ice.


    Yeah, why are Americans, in general, such ice-philes (pagophile?) I've never quite understood, as I'm one of the freaks who asks for "no ice" or "easy ice," as the drinks are already damned cold enough, and unless I'm ordering a three-gallon 7-11 Bucket O'Pop, they stay that way before I even get close to finishing.

    Then again, I'm also the guy who is too lazy to find room in his fridge for beer, so just leaves it in the kitchen at room temp, so I guess cold drinks have never held much appeal for me.

    But, seriously, why the need for Americans to keep their drinks a hair's breadth above freezing?
  • Post #24 - October 17th, 2012, 2:29 pm
    Post #24 - October 17th, 2012, 2:29 pm Post #24 - October 17th, 2012, 2:29 pm
    Mike G- a touching insight, one that I appreciated. Thanks for posting.

    BR- My son, an engineer for the Wrigley Company, was sent to Taipei to install some machinery. On his first day his fellow engineers announced a special welcoming treat in his honor... and took him to a McDonalds. At the end of his post, he noted that it had been at least eight years since he'd been to a McD and, with any luck, it would be at least eight years before he found himself in one again.

    On the other hand, he said that when they all went to a Chinese restaurant - a real Chinese restaurant - he had to ask a LOT of questions about each dish, so he was positive he was fully aware of the ingredients. ;-)
    Last edited by MikeLM on October 17th, 2012, 7:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Suburban gourmand
  • Post #25 - October 17th, 2012, 2:55 pm
    Post #25 - October 17th, 2012, 2:55 pm Post #25 - October 17th, 2012, 2:55 pm
    I think Americans got into the ice habit in the centuries prior to a/c being generally available. Think about it: N. America is essentially uninhabitable, except for a small strip extending in 15 or so km from the beach on the West Coast. All the rest of the land mass is either waaay too hot in Summer (especially if you have to work outdoors, which most did, up until maybe two generations ago) or waaaay too cold in Winter (especially if you have to work outdoors, which most did, up until maybe two generations ago), or both.

    The only way to have an illusion of relief was to drink iced drinks. There has been a commercial ice trade in America since the turn of the 19th Century. And making ice in Winter was a nationwide activity from early in our history. America and Ice: born together, I'd say! :wink:

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #26 - October 17th, 2012, 4:15 pm
    Post #26 - October 17th, 2012, 4:15 pm Post #26 - October 17th, 2012, 4:15 pm
    Hi,

    Adding to Geo's comments, we are also much further south than most of Europe. Chicago (41.85 N, 87.6 W) and Rome (41.9 N, 12.5 E) are roughly at the same latitude. When you are in Paris, you may as well be somewhere in Canada. :D

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #27 - October 17th, 2012, 5:17 pm
    Post #27 - October 17th, 2012, 5:17 pm Post #27 - October 17th, 2012, 5:17 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:When you are in Paris, you may as well be somewhere in Canada. :D


    More specifically, Quebec. :wink:
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #28 - October 17th, 2012, 5:34 pm
    Post #28 - October 17th, 2012, 5:34 pm Post #28 - October 17th, 2012, 5:34 pm
    Actually, Québec differs quite a bit from Paris, mostly in that we're covered with snow for about four months of the year, plus there are an awful lot of pickup trucks--big 'uns--roaring around up here. 8)

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #29 - October 17th, 2012, 7:16 pm
    Post #29 - October 17th, 2012, 7:16 pm Post #29 - October 17th, 2012, 7:16 pm
    Europe is significantly warmer at the same latitudes, due to how the Gulf Stream Crosses the Atlantic. It's what nearly killed the Plymouth colony - they didn't expect such cold winters.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #30 - October 17th, 2012, 8:23 pm
    Post #30 - October 17th, 2012, 8:23 pm Post #30 - October 17th, 2012, 8:23 pm
    Geo wrote:Actually, Québec differs quite a bit from Paris, mostly in that we're covered with snow for about four months of the year, plus there are an awful lot of pickup trucks--big 'uns--roaring around up here. 8)

    Geo


    True dat, but they DO speak French.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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